Monday, September 22, 2014

How Jesus Wins Debates

Jesus spent at least a day debating with the priests and scholars of his day.  His answers were intelligent and showed a deep understanding of Scripture.  But Jesus didn't silence his contrarians because his answers were more true or were better argued.  Rather, he won the day because of his clear moral authority.

Jewish religion, including Jesus' theology, is based on law.  But not just the letter of the law, although some groups like the Pharisees built their reputation on focusing on the letter instead of the principle.  But Jewish understanding of religion is based on moral principles, no matter what the specific law says.  They don't just want to understand the fact of the law, but the reason behind the law, the moral principle upon which we should live our lives.  And Jesus clearly had a greater understanding of the moral principle of God's law for humanity.

Jesus shows that he shows respect for authority, especially the greatest authority who is the Lord.

Jesus shows wisdom in not getting caught in an answerable question by asking an unanswerable question.

Jesus undermines any authority that uses their power to oppress the innocent, even if the innocent is himself.

Jesus strips through confusion by getting to the basic principles of theology-- the power and love of God.

Jesus declares that all moral authority is based on love, love alone.

Then Jesus asks a question that indicates that Scripture itself is a mystery, to be revealed only by God.

On the internet it is easy to engage in debate.  But the one who wins debate isn't the one who is right.  It' is the one who demonstrates the moral authority of love.  Love always wins.

Debating with Jesus, part 2

Jesus made quite an impact in the first couple days he was in Jerusalem.  He came into the town as a victorious king, and then he declared the legal practice of selling in the Temple to be illegal in God’s eyes.  He fully represented the authority of God in that place.  But those who actually ruled the Jews in Jerusalem—the members of the Sanhedrin and the ruling priests—were upset and wanted to challenge his authority.

On Jesus’ third day in Jerusalem, he was teaching in the Temple area, which is where the ruling priests and elders found him.  Immediately, they challenged him, “Who do you think you are?  On what basis did you think that you could act like a king?  Who is your authority?”

            Jesus replied, “If you want me to answer your question, you need to answer mine: Where did John the Baptist’s authority come from—God or from someone on earth?”  
   The priests and elders huddled together, discussing quietly a proper answer.  They said among themselves, “If we say his authority was from heaven, then this teacher will rebuke us for not listening to him.  If we say that his authority was not from heaven, the people will be angry at us.”  So they turned to Jesus and said, “We don’t know.”  
   Jesus replied, “Even so, I won’t tell you who my authority is.”

            Jesus then spoke to the crowds listening to his teaching, “There once was a farm and the owner put the farm under the control of some shareholders.  The owner sent a messenger to the shareholders, wanting some fruit of the harvest.  The shareholders, however, just beat the messenger and sent him away.  The owner sent many other messengers, but the shareholders beat them all and killed some.  Finally, the angry owner said, ‘I will send my son to them, for they will respect him.’  When the shareholders saw the owner’s son, however, they said, ‘Here is the owner’s son.  We will kill him and then gain the farm for ourselves.’  So they grabbed the owner’s son, beat him, threw him out of the farm and killed him.  When the owner heard this, he gathered his army and destroyed the shareholders and gave the farm to someone else.”

            Jesus then said to the chief priests and elders, “The Scripture says, ‘The building stone which the builders rejected has now become the chief cornerstone.’  Everyone who rejects this stone will be crushed by it.”  They knew that Jesus was speaking specifically against them, and they wanted to see how they could make him be ashamed in front of the crowds.

            So they sent a group of Sadduceean scholars to confront him.  The Sadducees didn’t believe that there would be any resurrection, nor did they believe in any Scriptures except the first five books of Moses.  They came to Jesus and said, “Good teacher, we have a situation we would like you to judge.  As you know, the law says that a woman whose husband has died must marry his brother.  A woman among us has become a widow, and so married her husband’s brother.  Suddenly, her second husband died, so she married another brother.  Then her third husband died, so she married another, and so on until she had married all seven brothers.  Finally, she died.  Our question is this: which man will be her husband in the resurrection?”

           Jesus replied, “You do not know the Scripture or the power of God.  When the resurrection comes, there will be no more marriage, but everyone will be like the angels of heaven.  As for whether the resurrection is true or not, didn’t God say to Moses, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”?  God is not the God of the dead, but of the living—so there must be a resurrection.”  The Sadducees left, furious, but unable to answer him.

            Hearing his responses, a scribe came up to Jesus and asked, “Rabbi, what is the greatest command of the law?”  
  Jesus replied, “The greatest command is this: ‘Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, with all of your mind and with all of your strength.’  The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the law and the prophets rely on these two commands.”  After hearing his responses, no one asked him any more questions.

            Then Jesus said to his challengers, “Now I have a question for you:  David said about the coming king, ‘The Lord said to my lord, “I will set your enemies at your feet.”’  But if David is the coming king’s father, how can he call him ‘lord’?  But if he is not the king’s father, why do we all say that the coming king is David’s son?”  No one could answer him, and Jesus left Jerusalem for the day.